A condition that’s usually called traveller’s diarrhoea denotes health issue marked by frequent and loose stools. It usually manifests when travelling to a new location. In most cases, it is caused by bacterial infection, when a traveller is exposed to harmful bacteria through contaminated food or water in remote areas. The risks of this condition are even greater if one is spending time in nature where food can get contaminated through handling and even the most benign things such as washing with unclean water can cause complications.
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Aside from bacteria which are the most common cause, this condition can also sometimes be the result of viral or fungal infection. Once infected, a person can experience three or more loose stools per day, with the frequency of bowel movements increasing without proper treatment.
How to prevent traveller’s diarrhoea?
There are several things one can do in order to limit or prevent the risk of getting affected by traveller’s diarrhoea:
- Washing hands regularly with cleansing gel
- Eating cooked foods and avoiding freshly washed raw items
- Getting relevant info on potential dangers prior to travelling (like from the NHS website Fit for Travel)
This condition come in varying degrees of severity – from a nuisance to severe health condition with significant risk of complications due to dehydration. The more severe cases can cause as much as ten or more defecations per day which will significantly speed up the process of losing fluids.
Because of these differences, types of treatment can vary too and are usually determined on a case-to-case basis.
How to treat traveller’s diarrhoea
In a majority of mild and moderate cases, traveller’s diarrhoea will simply pass on its own without any specific treatment. The usual practices such as getting enough rest and drinking plenty of water (or oral rehydration salt solutions) can do wonders for reduction of severity of symptoms.
However, in more severe cases, the condition can become very dangerous and then it will need to be properly treated. Some of the tell-tale signs of dangerous and high-intensity traveller’s diarrhoea include:
- Presence of blood or mucus in the stool
- Defecating five or more times per day
- Severe abdominal pain
If you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to contact emergency services immediately. Either of these can be indicative of a very serious case which necessities medical attention and sometimes even hospitalization.
If a bacterial infection has been singled out as the root cause of the condition, the doctor can recommend the use of antibiotics as a very efficient treatment. Usually, a swab test is conducted in order to conclude whether an infection is present and whether antibiotic medicine is what will be enough to solve the issue.
Certain regions of the world are considered to be high-risk when it comes to chances of getting infected by a potentially dangerous bacteria causing traveller’s diarrhoea. This is mostly due to their climate and, in some extent, the level of hygiene in said part of the world. If a traveller has a known history of related conditions or is affected by an illness that will make it all the more likely to get infected, it is advisable to always have antibiotics handy when traveling there.
Traveller’s diarrhoea medicines
The antibiotic treatment that is very often prescribed for people affected by traveller’s diarrhoea is Xifaxanta. Based on active ingredient rifaximin, this medicine is manufactured and marketed by the pharmaceutical company Norgine. Rifaximin’s mechanism of action is localized in the gut where it tackles the bacterial infection by preventing it from producing essential enzymes that bacteria will use in order to grow and reproduce. In this way, Xifaxanta will make the bacteria present stagnant, so the immune system will deal with it easily.
Another common medicine that works in a similar way is called Ciprofloxacin.
However, it is important to note that in order for this treatment to be prescribed, a bacterial infection must be confirmed by a swab test or any other method. If your condition is caused by viral or fungal infection, antibiotic treatment won’t be able to produce the desired results and thus it should not be used.
Antidiarrhoeal treatment options
With traveller’s diarrhoea, finding the exact cause of the issue is usually of primary importance. As this condition is usually caused by infection of some type, treating the symptoms won’t do any good if the harmful microorganisms continue to thrive within the gastrointestinal system.
On the other hand, this type of diarrhoea also comes with a significant risk of dehydration, so treating the symptoms and ensuring higher percentage of fluid absorption can also be rather important. This is why antidiarrhoeal treatments are often prescribed in addition to antibiotics.
In some specific cases, antibiotics can be prescribed as prophylactics, in order to prevent the onset of traveller’s diarrhoea at first place. This will happen in following scenarios:
- Person is travelling to a region where the prevalence of the condition is high
- Person has a history of predisposition to traveller’s diarrhoea
- There is a pre-existing medical condition that increases the chances of bacterial infection
Xifaxanta (rifaximin) against traveller’s diarrhoea
What makes Xifaxanta especially suitable for the treatment of traveller’s diarrhoea is its localised action. The active substance that is at the root of high success rate of Xifaxanta, rifaximin, works by stopping the bacteria from producing self-sustaining proteins and enzymes which are vital for its survival, growth and spread. Once this ability is eliminated, the bacteria will simply die off, causing the infection to go away too.
However, keep in mind that his medicine is effective only in those cases when your condition is a result of bacterial infection – it will not be effective if diarrhoea has been caused by viral or fungal infection.